Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Male Body Image Issues

Everyone has body image problems to varying degrees, at least sometimes. While I think that our culture is most ruthless regarding the messages it sends about women's bodies, and so it's fitting that much of the conversation about this issue focuses on them, I also know that as a man I sometimes hate my body, too.

That's why I really appreciated a recent post by a man who confronted this issue head on. Fair warning, the article is centered around a couple of pictures of him nude, but they are honest and pure, certainly not pornographic. (I feel like this blog's readership is not generally the squeamish type about that stuff, but I do want to let people know what they're in for before they click.) The post is titled I’m Stark Naked: Deal With It and it's quite short, check it out.

One of the things he said stuck out to me: "I will not get into the things I’ve done out of self-hatred and shame and fear over the past decade or two. I will not repeat the deflections and lies I’ve said to women who’ve told me my body is sexy." I'm not good at accepting compliments in general, and I've definitely had experience with not being able to really believe that people I've dated truly thought I was good looking.

Man or woman, body shame stinks. You don't have to post nude pictures of yourself on the internet to get over it, but try to start to get over it in some way. Next time someone compliments your body, agree! Take time to look at your body and love it as real. See it as God sees it, or your lover sees it, or your parents saw it when you were born all chubby and funny-shaped and naked--in other words, see it as beautiful. At least try. I am.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Psoriasis--By Elise Silva

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year that my skin starts drying out, that the large dry spots start showing up, and also, the time of year that I get to cover up with long sleeved shirts and warm pants.

I was diagnosed with psoriasis as a young child. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the skin. As with any autoimmune disorder, my immune system attacks itself—and this is manifest through large, red, itchy, flaky patches that cover my body.

Psoriasis comes in all shapes and sizes. For some people, the patches are large. For some, it only shows up in the folds of their skin, for yet others, it shows up as small, itchy pox. You can get psoriasis on your scalp, under your finger nails, and it is also linked to painful arthritis symptoms.

What people don’t often talk about is the fact that no matter what the psoriasis looks like, one of the common symptoms among many sufferers is low self esteem, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

Why? Perhaps my story can illustrate: a few months after I was first diagnosed I had an itch on my side. I lifted my shirt up to expose a bit of my torso, and the little boy sitting beside me in class pointed at me, shouted “ew!” and asked to be moved. I didn’t know I was supposed to be embarrassed about how I looked—I knew it was uncomfortable to have my whole body itch and bleed, but I didn’t know that I was supposed to hide that from the world.

I learned my lesson that day and started to do just that.

I was a pre-pubescent girl who was already ashamed of her body. I was embarrassed to swim because parents would look at me funny—as if I was going to infect their kids with my disgusting skin (psoriasis is genetic—not a communicable disease). I was embarrassed to wear shorts because someone might ask what those spots were on my knees. I was embarrassed to itch my scalp for fear that my psoriasis would flake and cover my shoulders. I was afraid to be noticed. All I wanted to do was cover up as much as possible and disappear.

And so my formative years were spent doing just this—hiding in the background, pretending I didn’t have skin problems, and using harsh topical creams and sometimes painful light treatments to control my own body. I’ll admit it: I did battle depression and low self esteem as a result.

It wasn’t until I was older that I realized I wasn’t the only one hiding. People hide for all sorts of reasons—many of them related to their bodies. What I realized, especially through my teaching career, was that hiding isn’t worth it. When I turn my back to my students now to write on the board I force myself to forget that they might be looking at the back of my arms and those pesky spots. Instead, I focus my attention to what I’m writing, where I’m going, and what I’m showing my students. Because what I’m showing is significantly more important than what I hide.

I decided not to let myself be covered any more.  

Discussion Questions:
·         What do we hide, and why?  How can we overcome the need to hide and “show” our bodies (insecurities and all) in productive ways?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

There's Only One Thing To Do When The Internet Calls You Fat

Lindy West at Back Fence PDX from Back Fence PDX on Vimeo.

Lindy West is a hilarious, smart, beautiful, and powerful writer... and speaker, as it turns out. She blogs at Jezebel and in this talk she recounts a series of events that came about when the Internet discovered that she is fat.

It's a very powerful story of insecurity, courage, empathy, redemption, and good humor. I very highly recommend it.

[just a heads up, there is some crude language in a few spots, but the overall message is stunningly Christlike so... don't worry about it.]

What do you think?